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Unforgettable Wash Promotions

It was Friday night at the Heartland Carwash Association where I first heard somebody talk about making your business “unforgettable.”     

The guest speaker was one of the finalists from Donald Trump’s The Apprentice, Tana Goetz. Her presentation really hit home with me because she was talking about how to make your business “unforgettable”. 

Tana told us about a time when she was giving a presentation to an audience about thinking outside the box and there was a gentleman in the crowd that didn’t believe what she was saying could work. He would not clap, would not smile, and certainly did not participate in the discussions. Near the end of the event she walked out into the crowd and singled him out to ask him what his issue was. He stated that he just didn’t think there was anything he could do to make his business stand out. Tana asked the man what his business was and he told her he owned a local drive-through pharmacy and was competing against the big chain-stores and was losing business. She snapped her fingers as she had an idea about how to set himself apart. 

Tana said to the man, “Ok, what you need to do is get labels printed up with the name of your company on them and stick them on the outside of little bottled waters. The one thing that bothers me is that when I use a drive-through pharmacy, I usually have a medication that I need to take and I drive to the nearest gas station to buy a bottled water and this is annoying. THIS is exactly what you need to make your business unforgettable in your community.” 

She tells this story and follows up with how that business owner contacted her months later to tell her that he took her advice and started giving away small labeled water bottles with all prescription refills. His business has grown and people always comment on how they love the convenience of the bottled water for taking their medication in their car. He admits that his business is now unforgettable amongst his customers. Tana really makes an amazing point about what makes a promotion truly successful and in the car washing industry. If we can learn why people choose where they wash, we can do things about how we can promote our businesses differently and more effectively.

What Does Success Look Like?

The difference between a successfully promoted business and a business that fails to promote successfully is that in the long run you are remembered by your customers for what you’ve done for them. Far too many car wash businesses think that by slashing prices and giving huge discounts will win over new customers. Discounting only goes so far when you are trying to bring in new customers because discounting is temporary and long-term price cuts hurt your bottom line. A successful promotion will engage your customers and community in ways that will endear themselves to you and your business. A successfully promoted car wash business will not be known as “the cheap wash” in their community. The successful wash in town will be known as “the charity wash”, “the fundraiser wash”, “the wash that drives the funny car in the local parade”, “the fast wash”, “the convenient wash”, or we can hope at the very least the wash is known as, “the wash that gets my car clean”.

How Do Customers Decide Where They Wash?

At the 2007 Minnesota Petroleum Marketeers Association expo an amazing two-year study was discussed in one of the education seminars on car washing. It was a study that was conducted in the midwest from 2004-2006. The study results attempted to determine what factors play into the decision making process for consumers that want to wash their vehicle. When consumers choose where to wash they make their decision based on four criterion in the following order:

1. Convenience: In our consumer driven economy it should be no surprise that the number one concern of a wash customer is convenience. Consumers ask themselves many questions before they commit to their decision. Is it easy to get in and out of the facility? Will the wash accept my credit card? Will they give me a receipt if I use my credit card so I can get reimbursed by my company? Does the wash offer a fleet program for business customers? Are the wash packages easy to figure out? Is the location easy to get to?

2. Speed: Can you get in and out of the wash quickly? Does the wash have high-speed credit card payment? Is there any inefficient downtime where customers have to “hurry up and wait”?

3. Quality: Most wash operators are very surprised that customers are more concerned about their own personal needs over the quality of the service provided. It goes to reinforce that customers will always pay for a better quality service, especially if the higher quality comes with factors of convenience and speed.

4. Price: Consumers will always ask whether the price for a service is reasonable or not based on comparisons between multiple washes. What many wash owners are figuring out is that pricing is more art than science in many cases. What works for one wash location may not work for another.

Industry Tip:

I had a very successful wash owner tell me, “with wash pricing you have to set the price to where you’re charging just enough to not insult the customer. You charge too little and they will assume it’s a low price for reasons of low quality! If you charge too much they will think you’re gouging them. Although it’s far easier to reduce a price than it is to raise it later on, so I say shoot high and at least if you’re losing some volume, the customers that do come in make up for the losses!” 

How to Run a “Better” Promotion Based on What We Know

When creating marketing promotions realize that if you can highlight how your wash benefits the customer in ways other than price you’re speaking directly to a customer’s sub-conscious that has a different list of priorities than price. Before you can have a promotion that is memorable, make sure that it is first reasonable and speaks to the consumer in ways that make it an attractive offer.

Be very certain that the customer does not have to jump through too many hoops to participate in the promotion. If there are too many steps involved it no longer becomes convenient. Customers will pay more for convenience if it means less waiting, faster payment, and allowing them to use the most accessible payment method available to them whether it be cash, loyalty card, Visa, Mastercard, Discover, American Express, or automatic payment by proximity tag. Be memorable: If that means finding new ways to involve your business in the community through offering your wash for school fundraisers, corporate team-building charity events, or getting involved in the local parade you should do so! Keep the name of your business visible by establishing business branding. Do positive things that will get the local paper to write stories about your wash business and customers will seek you out.

Think outside of the box: Look to other businesses in your community for ideas on being memorable. Which businesses do you remember? Is there any way to replicate what they are doing to make their customers remember their name?

Their Success is Your Success

If you’re having difficulty coming up with new and creative ways to set yourself apart, then look to your peers to see how and why they are successful. Support your local car wash association and attend the educational seminars and meet with other car wash operators in situations similar to yourself. Just remember that if you’re doing something now that isn’t working it’s time to mix things up and try something else to make your business unforgettable. 




Much, much more in the print addition of Auto Atlantic.
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